Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

6/19 2014

Why Detroit?

General Assembly Presbyterian Church (USA)What was the Presbyterian Church thinking when they decided to have the 221st General Assembly in Detroit, MI? Of all places! (As you’ll recall, the last Assembly was held in beautiful Pittsburgh, PA. Just sayin’.)

Haven’t they seen the news? Don’t they read the papers? Don’t they know Detroit’s a warzone? Dangerous? Hopeless?

Several friends of mine expressed concern that I was planning to drive by myself from Pittsburgh, PA, to the Motor City. The guy at the rental car counter (a total stranger) expressed concern at my plan as well.

And for a brief moment, I began to have second thoughts as well.

Rest assured, I arrived safely from Pittsburgh, in one piece, unscathed. And do you know what I have found in Detroit?

Jesus. Beauty. Homelessness. Art. Struggle. The Church. Redemption. Hope.

The Presbytery of Detroit, our hosts for the meeting, chose this for the week’s theme: “Abounding in Hope” from Romans 15:13, “Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope” (The Message).

I have found an unfolding story of redemption in Detroit. I have found people in ministry who have not given up on their city and churches who are not willing to give up on their communities. I have found a denomination that is willing to be a part of this story by meeting within its bounds and bringing with us an influx of cash and business.

My beloved hometown of Pittsburgh has a similar story of redemption: a resurgence of life in its streets, commerce on its corners, hope in its homes. I feel a kinship with Detroit. Their story is my story. And it is OUR story.

Our story, as Christians from Pennsylvania – Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Washington and Warren, Allentown and Altoona – and Michigan – Detroit and Deborn, and all over the world, is a story of redemption, of a God who left the throne in heaven and came down to be one of us in the flesh, and through Christ, rejoices in what gives us joy and mourns that which breaks our heart.

And I believe God’s heart is broken for Detroit. But from what I’ve seen, the good folks of Detroit are doing their best to put the pieces of Detroit and God’s heart back together again through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As a Presbyterian, I am glad to be a part of this story.

Written by the Rev. Allison Bauer ’05, pastor of Frankfort PC near Pittsburgh, PA. She is an alumna of the MDiv program and serves as the moderator of Beaver-Butler Presbytery.


5/1 2014

A Mission Reflection: Remembering


When traveling, especially to a foreign country, I am often first struck by the
new landscape or smells, but by the time I leave, my lasting memories are of the
people I have met. There is always a temptation to get stay caught in the
“picture:” the scenery, the smells, the newness of the experience and never move
into three dimensions: the people, their lives, their pains, and their joys.
But as my trip to Haiti this spring break reminded me, moving into three
dimensions is most important part of life no matter where I am; to see the
people for who they are, because human nature transcends time and space.

In Haiti I saw a lot of disturbing things. I saw a woman with a tumor
the size of an orange on her face sitting in her back yard while I was painting
the overlooking fence. I saw an 11-month-old baby who was so malnourished he
couldn’t pick up his head. I played with a little girl for a couple of days,
met her mother, and was asked later by one of her friends if I was going to
adopt her because we loved each other. A small group I was a part of was asked
extremely tough questions, like, “why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” and, “does
the faith of a nation determine their prosperity?” But in spite of my
challenging feelings, I was left reflecting upon God’s love and upon His
sovereignty that gives purpose to the lives of those I encountered and to my

It is easy for me to remember the challenges I observed and faced
and the images will never be erased from my memory, but the challenges did not
define my trip. What I will remember most is the wisdom with which our
translators spoke: the insight that they brought into our journey in Haiti. I
will remember the joy I heard with every song that rang out from the church and
filled the community. I will remember how God used the people I met to move me
away from the contentment that I had gotten accustomed to, to a place where I am
asking God to use me for His glory, even if it is at the expense of my comfort.

What was important about our trip was not the work that we did for the
mission, the mixing and carrying of concrete, the painting, and the picking up
of trash, but the realization that despite material possessions and the lack
there of, we are all the same. In all honesty we are no more fortunate than
they are. We may have more possessions, but we lack the richness of communal
responsibility. This is a hard concept for those of us who come from tight
communities, however, I guarantee that our sense of community and our
responsibility to one another does not begin to compare to that of the people I
met in Haiti.

For instance, we met a young man who is not getting married for
several more years in order to fully devote himself to providing for parents and
siblings. We encountered many multigenerational households full of individuals
who put the needs of their family members before their own. And we met teens,
full of ambition, whose life goals were not to become doctors or lawyers, but to
run orphanages. But it is these things: the sense of community, hope, and
happiness, despite a lack of basic necessities, that I will remember most about
my trip to Haiti.

Written by Lisa Davis, current M.A. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.


4/25 2014

A Mission Reflection: Pray, Bring Good News, and Build Relationships

In Luke chapter 10, verses 5-9, Jesus teaches the disciples how to find the other hospitable:

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

My time in Brazil taught me to do this very thing. This short term mission trip was not about saving or fixing the other; it was about building relationships, so we could learn from one another.

The purpose of our trip was to learn about church planting outside of a Western
context. In the span of ten days, I learned many things, but three themes struck
me in particular: pray, bring good news, and build relationships.

These three themes boiled up in every church plant. My hope is to reflect on the three
themes I learned from my brothers and sisters, in order to engage with the community God is sending me to.

Written by: Brendan Ashley, current MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

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